Ref! On the cult of the manager

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads,

So, all the best football managers in the world have now decided England is the place to be. And it’s the time of year when they can talk themselves up, as many are.

I noticed this about 18 months ago when Alan Pardew left Newcastle, where he hadn’t exactly set the world on fire, and went to Crystal Palace. And what did he say about his mission there, Dave, you remember? We discussed it at the time. That’s right, he said he was going to “teach them how to win football matches”. Like he was the first person to make that connection between winning matches and being successful. He cast himself in the role of Great Wise One. And he’s done all right there, he has “won a few football matches”, but his status as guru disappeared as soon as they lost one and kept losing them so it was clear they weren’t going to be the best side in the country.

But this is the time of year when managers can bang on about their philosophy – although they won’t be too specific about that because they haven’t actually got one. They’re just doing their best.

And now we’ve got Pep Guardiola, who has more claim than most to being a managerial genius, and he’s taken over a disgustingly rich club with a lot of top players. Manchester City, Baz. Well, disgusting in that that’s all it’s based on. People used to say that about Chelsea a few years ago, but they’ve achieved a degree of humility and therefore people aren’t so hard on them because they had such a rough time last season and nobody really knows why.

And Guardiola’s talking about the City players learning how he wants them to play. He’s had success from the start of his managerial career, so maybe either he is that good or he’s just been lucky. I mean, he wasn’t exactly short of talent at Barcelona and when you’ve got that many great players, you’re at an advantage, aren’t you? Yes, Baz, a considerable advantage – good word, your kids teach you that?

And then he was at Bayern Munich, who are so far ahead of the rest of Germany that, again, you’d have to be stupid to mess it up. But now he’s in England, where there is a bit of opposition. In Spain all you’ve got to do is beat Real Madrid a couple of times and steamroller the rest and you’re laughing.

But here, he’s got Jose Mourinho to contend with, a man with a point to prove. And Mourinho didn’t really big himself up that much at Chelsea, but now everyone else is at it, so he’s creating a mystique.

Cheers, Gary. I’ll have something new and exciting. Doesn’t matter what it is, just ask Derek what’s new and tell him why. Because we’re talking about new brooms, new ideas, mate, and I want to know Derek’s plans for the Duck and Peasant, see what his philosophy is and how he views the future.

Yes, I know that’s cobblers, but it’s an extension of the train of thought we’re on.

And at Chelsea you’ve got Antonio Conte, who we all know now because he was all over the Euros with Italy, looking smart in his dark suit and matching shirt and tie and building his image as the elegant tough guy. But can you get the best out of Eden Hazard and Nemanya Matic by shouting at them, which apparently he does a lot? I can see him getting a knuckle sandwich if he’s not careful. If John Terry was a few years younger, you know…

And who else, there’s Klopp at Liverpool who’s come out just about even after his first season, and now Ronald Koeman’s at Everton, where he is expected to do well, even though it’s a club built on former glories and in this day and age is no more of a football power than Southampton, where he’s just jumped ship from.

Have I forgotten anyone, Baz? Claudio Ranieri? No, he’s not bothered, mate. He’s had his miracle and he must have been expecting half the team to desert him, but they haven’t. Which might be a mixed blessing if it becomes apparent that the gift has left Leicester and with the same players they struggle a bit.

As ever, gentlemen, it remains to be seen.

 

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Ref! On Klopp and statistics

The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Yes, Dave, I was one of the officials at Jurgen Klopp’s first loss as Liverpool manager. And I don’t say that with any pleasure, because it’s not nice to lose in any walk of life, but it happens. He had a very good introduction to the Premier League, with a few wins and draws, including stuffing Chelsea, so he can’t complain.

Plus he comes in with that big toothy grin and he’s probably had half the women in Liverpool throwing themselves at him, so for his own good he has to have a bit of rough with the smooth. Yes, Baz, I suppose some of those Scouse birds must be a bit rough, but you know what I mean.

People were leaving the ground with seven minutes still to play – well welcome to the real world. This isn’t a fairy story – and even if it was, there would have to be a bit in it where the hero faces a challenge. So he’s dropped three points: boo hoo.

Statistically he’s well in the black, not that stats are my favourite thing. Journalists these days tend to throw them in instead of actual insights. You know: Aston Villa have never won away from home on a date with an odd number, that sort of thing.

Who thinks them up, that’s what I want to know. I was reading this morning that in the Arsenal-Tottenham game, Spurs as a team ran 7km further than Arsenal. I mean, is that necessarily a good thing?

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a light and special, and you don’t have to run round the car park twice before you get it. I’m not interested in your mileage, I’m looking for a pint as quickly as possible.

Mileage – how far players run during a game – that’s only of interest to a certain type of manager. You know Peter Taylor, Brian Clough’s old partner, well the two of them were on holiday in Mallorca once and they met a coach called Sammy Chung on the beach, and Chung’s bragging about how hard he makes his players work. He says he has routines that could make the Forest players physically sick. And Clough says, “When they start awarding three points for that we’ll be in touch.”

No, Baz, it was in Taylor’s book. I never met the guy, I was too young. But he and Clough used to value skill. Hard work as well, like, but not only that. Yes, three points. They used to get three points for a win.

Your cultured midfielder doesn’t have to be chasing all over the park all afternoon. They have other people to do that. Take Eric Cantona, as skilled a player as England has ever seen. In the French national side he had Didier Deschamps doing all the barking and harassing. Cantona referred to him as The Water Carrier, which was disrespectful, but there you go. Cantona was arrogant but brilliant.

A water carrier, Baz – in the Roman army you had the officers with the brains and the soldiers with the heroics and you had these other guys carrying water, because it’s thirsty work. What would you be? You’d be in the front line, mate, the front line.

 

 

Ref! On Rodgers and Newcastle

The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

That’s right, lads, I had the privilege of being the ‘man in the middle’ as you put it, at the City of Manchester stadium for City’s demolition of Newcastle. To tell you the truth, when a game is as one-sided as that, the problem is to keep your concentration. If you’re a fair-minded person you want to see a balanced game. You don’t want to see anybody get whipped 6-1, and apart from anything else you worry that you’ve lost count.

Newcastle, I don’t know, they’ve just been left behind, haven’t they? In today’s technological terms they need to shut down and reboot. They’ve tried everything – they even tried Alan Shearer as manager a few years ago, just because the fans think he’s God. They had to appoint him and let him fail so they could move on, but where have they moved on to? I know somebody was bound to give Steve McClaren another chance in England, but that’s the problem with the Geordies, they’re too sentimental.

Only they would have persevered with John Carver as long as they did, purely because he’s an honest-to-goodness local boy, and when they finally saw sense, they give the job to a nice guy who has demonstrated repeatedly that he’s not going to be successful in English football.

And now the poor sod’s got the weirdest haircut in the Premier League, with that little tuft at the front. Used to be a quiff and you can tell he’s still proud of it, but it’s like a bird standing on the beach when the tide’s gone out.

Fair enough, Dave, his follicular problems have nothing to do with his ability as a manager, and he’s endured enough ridicule, but you can’t help noticing, can you?

So who’s next up there in Liverpool? People are talking about Jurgen Klopp, who’s regarded as a bit of a guru, plus we don’t know that much about him, which is always good when you’re speculating.

Sam Allardyce is available but you can’t have that. Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a black and tan. You’ll have to explain to the barman, cos he’s only a nipper. Half a draught Guinness topped up with a bottle of pale ale. And then you can watch while he makes a mess of it – see you in half an hour, mate.

No, I reckon they’re going to go for someone really unlikely. Baseball coach with transferrable skills. Sir Clive Woodward. Nigel Clough. Drew Barrymore. They’re desperate enough, Baz, yes – you’re on the ball tonight, what’s the matter?

Jose Mourinho? Stranger things have happened, but nothing as strange as that. Abramovich probably can’t believe what’s happening, but when he leaves the denial phase he’s going to do something, isn’t he? He’s ruthless – they have to be, shady characters like him.

You know what I reckon? He was having it off with the doctor, Eva Carneiro. Then he got tired of it and told Mourinho to get rid of her.

Like Bill Shankly said, Baz, the only thing that surprises me is that I can be surprised.